Novos 17, Rovers 15 - Wilkes Whacks Winner
A high tempo last quarter was enough to turn a 8-15 deficit into a 17-15 win with Jonno Wilkes to the fore.
Squad News - for the first time in a long time the same pack took the field for the second week in a row. Onto the bench same Luke Menzfeld, promoted from the seconds after his return from a long term injury. In the backs, Greg Humphreyson got the nod to replace Richard Dodd at ten. In and on the bench came Ben Wollerton.
The early exchanges were very structured as we had a lot of possession based on superiority up front. However, the tempo of the game was very slow and we were unable to create much. Rovers as expected grew into the game perhaps lifted by the return of 2-3 players from injury. The were the first to grab the initiative as the kicked a penalty to make it 3-0. Then they benefitted from Novos missing touch and were able to launch an attack to score out wide. Rovers up 8-0 and on top in a slow game.
Things got worse for Novos as Sam Rowntree was yellow carded for a high tackle. Rovers threw everything at Novos line but were smashed back on several occasions and the odd steal at the breakdown. From a turnover five metres out Novos had secured possession only for a Rovers player to come round and kick the ball out. We were perhaps guilty of switching off, expecting an obvious offside. The Rovers back rower then ran and pounced on the ball for a converted try. Rovers up 15-0.
Despite the one sided score Novos had dominated the set piece battle, smashing the Rovers scrum back on every occasion. Novos finally upped the tempo of the game and Rovers were heavily penalised in the last eight mins of the half. From one kick to the corner the Novos pack drove Rovers back 10-15 metres for Shaun Stewart to dot down. Conversion added from out wide by Jonno Wilkes.
Half time Rovers 15- Novos 7
We had a chat about how well things were going up front and the need for us to up the pace and move the ball wider quicker. The second half started well with numerous breaks from some hard running by Nick Arbuckle and Sam Busby. We took quick taps which were often halted by some cynical play from Rovers. Our opponents appeared to be dropping off the pace a bit and we got on top. First Jez Nash crashed through some defenders but was unlucky to lose the ball in the act of scoring. Then with 20 mins to go the ball was fed to Wilkes who stepped into space and fended off a cover defender to go in for a try which he converted. Rovers up 15-14.
We shuffled some players around to keep the energy levels high and not let the tempo drop off. We thought we had the winner six mins from time as we looked to drive in our second. The forwards walked the Rovers pack back 10-15 metres as Tommy Dias dropped over the line, cheering the win, fist pumping the floor. Much to his surprise the Rovers players came round to try and nick the ball just as Dias realised it was the 5 metre line he had tripped over ! Blushes were spared as Rovers gave away a penalty on the 22m, 13m in from touch. Up stepped Jonno Wilkes to knock the pressure kick right down the middle for a 17-15 lead, two mins to play.
Rovers are a spirited bunch of lads and they raised their game one more time. They drove into our half and were awarded a scrum. Our pack pushed them back and whilst on the back foot we were able to turn a tackle into a maul. A school ground pile on then occurred when almost all our team surrounded the maul. Thankfully, the ball never appeared otherwise the Rovers backs would have been able to stroll in untouched.
Ref Davison blew his whistle for a huge 17-15 win to Novos. A massive result, closing the gap to the group of 4-5 teams now just one result away from us.
To the Rovers boys, you were all over us when the game was structured and slow. Pleased to see you have some of your injured players back for the run in. I am sure you will gather enough points during the rest of the season to avoid relegation. We will work hard to do the same.
Our boys, great to put the same pack out. It makes a huge difference and the set piece was once again a huge reason for our win. The scrum was awesome and it was great to see Luke Menzfeld back from injury. His energy and enthusiasm made a big difference down the home stretch. Martin Fearon and Nick Arbuckle were excellent in the loose and caused havoc around the pitch. Jez Nash and Sam Busby had a good day but the player of the day was Jonno Wilkes. He added some conversions from out wide, scored an important try and then kicked the winning penalty.
Next week it's the pick up game against Consett. Three players from this squad not available so some of the boys will again have to step up from the 2's. All to play for at training then as we go for three in a row !!